How Painkillers Work

This section deals with Analgesics (painkillers). The likes of codiene, co-proxamol and co-codamol are known as Opioids. Others such as aspirin, ibuprofen are known as Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s). The later do not have as great a painkilling relief as the Opioids. As pain is a symptom and not a disease long-term relief depends on the cause of the problem and if intervention can remove the cause of the pain. An example would be toothache, remove the problem tooth and painkillers would be no-longer needed. If you look at some rheumatic conditions which are irreversible, then long-term treatment using an an analgesic would be required.

Opioids bind to specific opioid receptors in the central nervous system and other tissues

Opioid’s and paracetamol act on the brain and spinal cord. In this way they alter our perception of pain. Endorphins these are hormones naturally produced by the brain that block the transmission of pain from cell to cell. NSAID’s relive pain by working on the nerve endings at the site of the pain preventing stimulation. Paracetamol toxicity is the foremost cause of liver failure in the Western world, and accounts for most drug overdoses in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) have been in use for many years now, reliving pain and reducing a fever. A drug that we all know of would be aspirin, this medication also acts to reduce inflammation by blocking the production of prostaglandins. These particular little devils contribute to the swelling and pain in inflamed tissue. There are many ailments aspirin can be used for such as: Toothache, sore throat, headache, and the pain from chronic rheumatoid arthritis if given over a period of time.

If you are taking aspirin on a regular basis then you need to be aware that aspirin is also found in other medication, such as cold cures for example. Unfortunately because aspirin is in other medications as varying amounts it would be wise to read the manufactures label guide lines so overdosing is avoided.

There are several reasons why you should pay heed to the label guide lines, such as: aspirin is not recommended for children under the ages of 16 years, this is because its use has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare brain disorder. Aspirin is also used to treat abnormal blood clotting, so if you have a blood complaint where your blood does not clot normally you should not take aspirin.

There are other NSAID’s which are also used to not only treat the pain they also ease the inflammation. These other NSAID’s are related to aspirin and work the same way be blocking the making of prostaglandins.

Some mild opioids such as codeine can be found in combination preparation with Non-opioids or Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If you needed to be on long-term medication these combination of drugs would reduce the number of tablets taken. One advantage of combination preparations (analgesics) is that the preparation may reduce the side effects when combined, as opposed to taking two separate drugs. However, being combined can also be unsuitable if you happen to be allergic or plagued by adverse effects from one or the other drug, in the combined tablet. Your doctor would be unable to alter the dose of the particular drug causing the problem, so there are some positives and some negatives, on the whole most individuals tolerate combined medication well.

Opioid analgesic’s are the seeds extracted from the poppy. These drugs are the strongest and work directly on the central nervous system blocking the transmission of pain, this is because they focus on the areas in the brain where pain is perceived. Which makes them a strong defence against severe pain caused from the likes of cancer or maybe a serious injury or surgery, even severe pain attached to terminal illness.

The most common opioid most all of us have heard of is Morphine there are others, Diamorphine and Pethidine. These powerful drugs are used under controlled situations this is because their ability to produce a feeling of great well-being can leave them open to abuse and addiction.

Listed below some powerful pain-killers as well as others associated with this group. Highlighted medication will open in a new window.

Opioids (act on the nervous system to relieve pain) Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAID’s )
Co-codamol Aspirin
Co-codaprin Diclofenac.
Codrydramol Etodolac
Co-proxamol Fenbufen
Codiene Fenoprofen
Dipipanone Ibuprofen
Diamorphine Indometacin
Fentanyl Ketoprofen
Methadone Ketorolac
Morphine Mefenamic acid
Pethidine Naproxen
Tramadol Piroxicam
Other Non Opioids
Nefopam Paracetamol
Highlighted medication will open in a new window